Tuesday, August 23, 2011

short term missions: where?

She was climbing the stairway when we passed. Her movements methodical, slow and somewhat forced as if moving by sheer will. Mountain climber, she moved with the focus of one trying to summit Everest after weeks battling the elements. Her body showed age, but her face, for some reason I remember her looking young. Its hard to say for the distance, but she seemed to be in her 30's.

I'm not sure why I was so fixated, but I could not keep my eyes off her. I watched her take several labored steps, each one more difficult than the last until at last, she collapsed. Midway to the peak.

A hospital, those stairs, that place where she crumpled helpless and alone was a hospital.

We should have stopped. 
                                   We should have helped.
                                                                    We would have...
if I had said anything.

I was maybe 10 and driving with my dad. I can't remember where we were going, or where we had been. I have a vague recollection that we were doing something for me, maybe something special, I just can't remember. I do, however, remember the conversation going on in my head.

He's a cop. If you tell him he's going to stop. He'll have to stop. Shut up! She's at a hospital, someone else will help her.

I did tell him...

If you have ever been on a short term missions trip you have your reasons. Many of us use the experience to help explore a call we feel to serve full-time, some of us are so moved by a life-changing experience with Christ we have to something, others are seeking answers/direction/peace in our lives and a change of scenery might just help out, and unfortunately some of us might just be looking to see some exotic far off location that we couldn't afford to visit if we were fronting the trip on our own dime.

Asking ourselves why is vital if we truly want to grow as followers of Christ, but maybe the deeper and more important question to answer is...


Back when we started this series, we read Matthew chapter 10 as a starting point. Why? Because Jesus is sending out his first set of short term missionaries.

Now as we think about this passage, lets try to understand what is happening. Jesus is sending these guys with no where to go and no where to stay. He tells them to find a house where someone is willing to help and stay for a while. They eat, they drink, they share with families, but also with the community. (Take another look at Matthew chapter 10 to see what they were sent to do!) They travel from place to place, from house to house. Step by step they are going out farther and farther.

Obviously, they are walking and no I am not advocating for us to go out on foot for missions, I just want to point out one small thing here:

If they are heading out, step by step..
they will never 
walk over the needy to get to the needy.

More importantly, they will never have to see the pain and disappointment in their dad's eyes as they tell him they saw her fall and did nothing to help.

Are you serving or are you letting others do it? Do you ever serve Him in your own community? Are you walking over the needy to serve the needy?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

short term missions: when?

Back in January I took my first steps down the path of higher education. Well, to be perfectly honest, they weren't my first steps. My first run at college started way back in '92, although, to call it a run at college is a fairly exaggerated and romanticized view of it all. A more truthful statement would be to say it was my first, and only run at the NFL.

I was a big guy in high school, so like all behemoth types I strapped on pads to play me a little football. I wasn't an exceptional player, but I was consistent and got good grades; two things that colleges are looking for. They like the standout, but if the standout can't play because of poor grades or if they play well sometimes, and not others, they can hurt the team more then they help.

Basically what I am saying is that I played consistently mediocre and that mediocrity earned me a full ride scholarship. I told everyone I was using football to pay for my studies, but my true goal, my vision, was to develop myself into a heaving mountain of muscle that could not be overlooked in the draft.

So I hit the gym, not the books. I studied film, not chem. I missed classes, some weeks at a time, all so I could fulfill my vision of getting drafted. 

Then my world came crashing down.

My school dropped the football program right after my Junior year. I had a year of eligibility left to play, a year left to finish my degree, and the school offered to allow us players to stay on a finish our degrees, on scholarship! Now given the fact that I had a wife and kid and a guaranteed financier for my degree, I made the obvious decision, look for another school to let me play. I mean, I was going to get drafted, you know?

But, I didn't get drafted and I got screwed out of playing my last season because of the NCAA and their damn rules. I told myself over and over how great I was because even though I couldn't fulfill my vision, I was at least true to it! A me-centered, me-focused mindset that tainted my marriage, my relationship with my kids, and my christianity.

My decision to “follow” Jesus was not some sort of altruistic self-sacrificing moment of clarity, it was way to make things easier at home, at work, in life. I wanted my life to change so it wouldn't be so hard, for me.

Now the brutal truth, four years ago when we first arrived, I was a me-centered, me-focused missionary. I am 100% sure God was calling us here, but I am equally 100% sure that I came with mixed motives. One of the biggest motivations, other then the whole serving God thing, was blessing. I wanted to be blessed. I still remember taking a little prayer walk, days after we arrived, where I had more or less this very conversation with God:

God this is so GREAT!

I am now serving you with my life, my whole life. I am going to be a blessing for you and you can be a blessing for me. We can bless each other. It'll be AWESOME!

I am so looking forward to see that blessing, for ME!

It wasn't until I got really humbled, mostly through un-blessings like our house being burglarized, our car being stolen, being extorted, having money stolen, having people talk shit about me and our family in front of our faces because those stupid gringos obviously can't speak Spanish that I began to change my focus. When I truly started to follow Jesus I learned that this life, the life of a missionary, the life of a true disciple of Christ is NOT ABOUT ME! 

So when does a short term missions trip work?

When our vision is not me-centered, me-focused! When we begin to seek to serve others and not ourselves! When we realize we don't know everything!

When we don't just give lip service to it being all about Him!


Have you ever seen a me-centered, me-focused attitude in missions? Is God teaching you that its not about you? Do you, or your missions department/board/ministry have a vision, if so what is it?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

short term missions: what?

We've all been there, right? Its late at night, you can't sleep, so your flipping channels.

While running the gauntlet of 24 hour news, 40 year old reruns, and a variety of programs showing groups of Italian-Americans smooshing in Jersey, all the while trying to avoid those naughty channels, you run across what appears to be some type of documentary touting the workmanship of the Amish. You know the Amish, right?. Those skilled craftsman that produce some of the finest freestanding electric fireplaces on the market.

You probably blew right past that infomercial, but not me. I love infomercials. I actually enjoy watching them. The acting, the plot lines, and the excitement when they agree to cut 2 whole payments of $19.99 if I agree to tell a friend about their product suck me in, but its not the infomercial that attracts me, its the stuff. I am a lover of stuff.

When I see things, gadgety things or tooly things, I get all excited and I want them, I need them. Like the Alien Wedge I didn't need it, I didn't even golf, but I saw an infomercial and I had to have it. So began my intense, albeit short-lived, love of golf. And before I took a stroll through the sales pavilion at the state fair, towels were all I needed to dry my car, but who can live without the ShamWow? Its a towel and a sponge! Oh yeah, I also bought these alumiweld rods to fix my motorcycle, but I never used them and I ended up throwing away the motorcycle in the garbage.

So I have a confession to make to you, the STMissionary.  I love you, hate you, and am jealous of you because of your stuff. You come down here fresh off a whirlwind shopping spree at REI. You have the latest backpack, the newest ultra-lightweight hiking boots, and a selection of outdoor clothing that would make any world traveler jealous. But that’s not all, don't forget the wide variety of electronics you have to track your GPS coordinates, to keep in contact with family, friends, coworkers, and entertain yourself during those long tropical nights we have is amazing. But have you ever asked yourself,

What should a STMissionary bring with them to the field?

If we go back to  Matthew chapter 10 , you remember, that’s the passage we are using as a basis of a STMissions program, we see that Jesus gives some pretty specific orders to the disciples about what NOT to take with. He starts with money, and tells them no, don't bring it. No bag, no extra clothes, no walking stick/ninja weapon. No, no, no, no! He sends them out into the world with nothing, and to top it off He gives them a little “pep” talk that goes a little like this:

Its a tough world out there. People are dying, brothers are killing brothers, and well, people are going to hate you. You're gonna get arrested, you're gonna get flogged, but don't worry, it happens to me to. So, when they persecute you just curse them and leave, they aren't even worth it. Move on to someone else. Oh yeah, don't be afraid either because your are really special to me.

Now I am no theologian, but I think I see Jesus using this as some sort of teaching moment. He sends out His disciples with nothing, but tells them they will be taken care of. He allows them no means to protect themselves, but tells them they are intimately known and tremendously important to the Father. They don't know where they are going, but He tells them there will be a place for them. So maybe, just maybe, Jesus is using this opportunity, this STMissions experience to help teach His disciples to trust in Him in a real way without the distractions of all that stuff.

So how do we apply this in our STMissions?

Maybe we need to limit what we allow on the STMission field. Maybe we say, don't run out and buy out the local adventure outfitter store, use what you have, within reason of course. Maybe we leave the extra money at home because this is about serving, not shopping. And maybe we give ourselves a little break from email, facebook, and twitter and take the time to connect with those around us, not to mention the one who is promising to care for us.

I say this because I know that God is not calling us to the STMissions field to rely on ourselves.  He wants us to learn to listen, trust and obey Him.  And I know for sure that God is not calling us to the STMissions field to spend 90% of our time in country running our business from a BlackBerry or calling our wives back home several times a day for hours at a time.  And I am absolutely positively sure that God is not calling us to the STMission field to play World of Warcraft on a laptop for hours a day when we could be engaged in His work (all things I have seen with my very own eyes from STMissionaries).

Do you think you could go on a STMissions trip without going shopping, if not why? What is the most ridiculous thing you have seen someone bring on a STMissions trip? Have you ever felt distracted by stuff during a STMissions trip?

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